British Columbia

Indigenous woman says she was punched, told to 'go back to Asia' while walking in East Vancouver

A 27-year-old Indigenous woman says she was repeatedly punched in the face, knocked down, and told to "go back to Asia" while walking her dog in East Vancouver on Friday night — another incident in a string of hate crimes recorded in the city.

Incident is the latest in a string of hate crimes recently reported in Vancouver

'I'm an Indigenous woman so this is something I face on a pretty regular basis. It just sucks to say that I'm used to it,' Holmes said. (Submitted by Dakota Holmes)

A 27-year-old Indigenous woman says she was repeatedly punched in the face, knocked down and told to "go back to Asia" while walking her dog in East Vancouver on Friday night — another incident in a string of hate crimes recently reported in the city.

Dakota Holmes said she was walking her dog, Kato, through a park at 33rd Avenue and St. Catherine's Street when she sneezed due to seasonal allergies.

Holmes said a man then walked up to her, began yelling racist slurs and knocked her to the ground.

"He was yelling a lot of racist slurs against Asians because he thought I was Asian — so he was telling me to go back to Asia, I don't belong here, go home," she said.

"And then he punched me in the face and he didn't care about anything I was trying to say — I'm not even Asian, I'm Indigenous."

Holmes said she was punched twice, first in the jaw, and then in the temple. She said the second punch knocked her to the ground, and that her dog then managed to keep the man away from her.

"I think I was probably in shock for a second there — thinking, there is no way this is happening to me right now, I just wanted to walk my dog and yet I'm on the ground after being punched in the face and this guy yelling racial slurs at me," Holmes said.

She said she then walked home and called her dad before calling police around an hour later. The officers retraced her steps at the park, Holmes said, and escorted her and her dog home.

Holmes said her one regret is not calling the police sooner, in the hopes it would have increased the likelihood of catching the man. She described him as a white man in his mid-30s, heavyset, 5 foot 11, and wearing a hat and a navy blue or black sweater. 

Holmes said she was grateful her dog and 'best friend' Kato was with her and managed to keep the man away from her when she was knocked to the ground. (Submitted by Dakota Holmes)

'It just sucks to say I'm used to it'

Holmes, bruised and sore but otherwise physically fine, works for the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs (UBCIC). She says through her work and personal experiences this isn't the first time she's witnessed racism.

"I'm an Indigenous woman so this is something I face on a pretty regular basis. It just sucks to say that I'm used to it," she said.

"I'm a very strong individual and I can stand my own ground and I can take all the hate comments thrown my way every day. It's just important that this story gets out there so it doesn't happen to anyone else."

Vancouver Police media relations officer Sergeant Aaron Roed confirmed that police responded to Holmes' report, and said the VPD'S diversity section and hate crimes investigators have opened an investigation.

"As a police service, we work hard to build strong relationships with marginalized groups in our community and encourage anyone who has experienced hate, bigotry, or discrimination to call us," he said in a written statement.

"Hate crimes and hate incidents have always been significantly under-reported."

Holmes' story is the latest in a string of racist incidents reported across Vancouver in the wake of COVID-19, which have been condemned by leaders from every level of government.

Incidents include a 92-year-old Asian man with dementia being pushed out of a convenience store and thrown to the groundan attack on a TransLink bus, an Asian woman in downtown Vancouver being punched in the head and a woman subjected to anti-Asian slurs in Richmond, who wasn't satisfied with the police response.

In a written statement, the UBCIC also condemned the incident, writing that "Asian communities have experienced an unacceptable, ugly and deeply disturbing rise in racism."

"This trend speaks to the stark reality that people of colour face disproportionately high risks to their physical and mental survival every day, a risk that has been intensified by dangerous false messaging about COVID-19."

About the Author

Michelle Ghoussoub

@MichelleGhsoub

Michelle Ghoussoub is a journalist with CBC News in Vancouver. She has previously reported in Lebanon and Chile. Reach her at michelle.ghoussoub@cbc.ca or on Twitter @MichelleGhsoub.